Two weeks ago on the blog we looked at meeting with God in the midst of disruptions and distractions, when we don’t have the “space” we are used to having to connect with Him.
Something I have been challenged around recently is how at times I feel lacking in that “space” I crave yet there are some things I can do to create space by re-examining the little daily habits that have become subversively entrenched in the way I live my life.
In 24-7 Prayer, we talk about “rhythms” and “spiritual practices” that aid us in our connection with God. These practices are, in a way, healthy habits that can displace the unhealthy habits.
Recently my friend Jill Weber shared a paper she wrote around the “Practice of Unplugging” in relation to the technological world, specifically social media. And I was reminded once again the time and “space” that technology tends to take up in my life, that very same space that I crave to have with God but think I don’t have.
Jill’s article was the first time I had heard of Unplugging in the context of a spiritual practice and I appreciated her insight that has come out of her own personal journey, so I thought I would share a bit of it here with all of you.
May you be inspired and challenged like I was!
‘The first thing I noticed when I abstained from online interactions at the beginning of my day was that I felt fundamentally disoriented.
I wanted to check my schedule for the day.
I wanted to check the weather.
I wanted to check the news.
I wanted to check my bank accounts (I was waiting for a money transfer).
And of course, my email and social media feeds. Not to respond to them, of course – but to just see what was there….
Without those things I felt adrift and out of joint.
I was reminded of a class in Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Community, where Ruth talked about God as our Primary Orienting Reality. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus says in John 18:36. This led me to ask myself the question – why am I turning to my technology to orient me to reality? What is the reality that shapes my life anyways? Weather? Money? Emails? Facebook likes?
What does it look like for me to acknowledge God to be my Chief Orienting Reality and to choose at the beginning of my day to orient myself to His Presence and His purpose in the world? What happens when I start my day with Him in gratitude and worship, when my reality is defined by the manifestation of His goodness and His generosity towards me, by His very presence and nature? Jesus speaks to this in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus’ own practice of retiring to lonely places to pray and align Himself to the Father as His Chief Orienting Reality…
Several years ago I was part of a North American consultation on New Monasticism. Practitioners, educators and writers from across the continent gathered to prayer about discuss how to resource, enrich and connect the movement. Their solution? Not books, email newsletters, facebook groups, but pilgrimage. Actually travelling to visit one another, and immersing into each other’s contexts and practices. Face to face, without the use of any technology. I have found this to be true myself. Just recently I went to Gothenburg, Sweden to visit a cluster of members of our Order. That visit has created a sense of kinship and relational cohesiveness that emails and FaceTimes could never replicate.
The Apostle’s Paul and John used writing, the technology of the day, for the advancement of the Gospel. Interestingly enough, Socrates was highly suspicious of writing as a medium of formation:
Socrates expressed concern about the technology of writing. He believed that learning in dialogue was the key to helping people grow in wisdom, and he worried that writing would make people knowledgeable, but it would fail to make them wise. Socrates was so worried about the damage that writing could cause that he never wrote any of his own ideas down.
Although John was willing to write, he asserts that writing (dissemination of information through technology) was no substitute for embodied presence.
“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” 2 John 12.
In 3 John 12–13, he repeats the same idea:
“I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.”
Of course we see this demonstrated in life of Jesus. The Word who became flesh – embodied and moved into our neighborhood.
So is practicing embodied presence an effective antidote to disembodied virtual reality and it’s inherit heart hungers and disordered desires? I believe so, and am committed to expanding my practice of embodied presence to those in my “networks.”
…I would love to report that I have thrust my unhealthy attachment to virtual connection from my life, but sadly I cannot. Some days I’m able to keep my devices offline until I’m done praying. Other times I’m twitchy and itchy and find myself running out of willingness…
I’m still in the de-habituation and disorientation stage, but committed to continue to grow in my practice. I expect that the way forward into a more consistent practice of unplugging is to bolster my discipline of abstinence with a more hearty commitment to the practices of orientation, discernment, and embodied presence.’